RESERVE football isn’t what it used to be.

That’s the view of Town manager Andy Ritchie, whose desire to get some of his younger players out on loan is partly fuelled by a lack of what he calls “really meaningful” second-team football.

“These days, it tends to be mainly young players in the reserves, whereas in the past, it was far more of a mixture,” explained the Galpharm manager, whose reserves, led by assistant manager John Dungworth, host Oldham in the Pontin’s Holidays League Central Division on Wednesday afternoon (2.00)..

“In my early days as a Manchester United player, getting a call-up for the reserves, who at that time played in the Central League, was a really big thing.

“Most of the games were played on Saturday afternoons, often to mirror the first-team matches, and they took place at the home club’s proper ground, sometimes with a decent crowd in

“Most clubs were carrying bigger squads, and if fit players weren’t in the first team, they played in the reserves as a matter of course.

“That meant you could find yourself alongside the likes of Jimmy Greenhoff or Sammy McIroy, and the matches had a really competitive edge.

“That’s not quite so evident these days, with the economics of the game meaning squads aren’t so big, and all the games taking place in midweek.

“You tend to find that in order to get a young player some good competitive football, you have to get them out on loan.”

Ritchie has done that with three players this season, striker Lucas Akins having been at Northwich Victoria and centre-backs Tom Clarke and Shane Killock currently at Halifax Town and Hyde United respectively.

And he’s trying to fix up more temporary moves as he starts to contemplate the shape of next season’s squad.

Sixteen of the 29 squad members are out of contract, including youngsters Akins, Mitchell Bailey, James Berrett, Danny Broadbent, Danny Racchi, Luke Malcher and Alex Smithies.

Players obviously develop at different rates, so Ritchie must make a decision on who has the potential to go further in the game, and spells out on loan can help enormously.

While talks are under way with experienced defender Frank Sinclair over a fresh one-year deal, supporters will be keen to learn what the future holds for the likes of Andy Booth, Chris Brandon, keeper Matt Glennon, who has been linked with Birmingham and Coventry but says he’s keen to stay at Town, and Matt Young.

One player certainly not staying is Danny Schofield, who has confirmed his intention to leave this close-season – or even before.

Whether he’ll add to his current tally of 285 appearances is uncertain.

“We’ll see how things pan out, and as I said earlier in the week, we could let him go out on loan if it would help clinch Danny a permanent move,” said Ritchie.

“His desire to leave is a personal thing, and after almost 10 years here, he’s decided he needs a new challenge.

“That happens with many players, and I’m certain Danny will go and give another club extremely good service.

“When he goes, it will be with our very best wishes.”


This close-season: Lucas Akins, Mitchell Bailey, James Berrett, Andy Booth, Chris Brandon, Danny Broadbent, Matt Glennon, Aaron Hardy, Luke Malcher, Rob Page, Danny Racchi, Danny Schofield, Frank Sinclair, Joe Skarz, Alex Smithies and Matt Young.

2009: Luke Beckett, Danny Cadamarteri, Tom Clarke (option to 2010), Simon Eastwood (option to 2010), Andy Holdsworth, Malvin Kamara, Shane Killock, David Mirfin, Jon Worthington.

2010: Nathan Clarke, Michael Collins, Phil Jevons, Robbie Williams.